I’m, like, 48. Don’t rub it in, though. Our Girl is being as tactful as possible, but I’m sure she must be embarrassed to be seen in cyberspace with the Oldest Known Arts Blogger in Captivity.
It’s interesting, by the way, to find myself using so radically new a medium as blogging to reflect on growing older. In the past, I sought creative renewal by immersing myself in unfamiliar art forms–ballet and modern dance in my thirties, the visual arts in my early forties. Now I’m finding it in a technology, which surprises me, especially given the fact that the technology in question seems to be used mainly by much younger people. Some of the best bloggers listed in “Sites to See” are roughly half my age.
Truth to tell, most of my best friends are younger than I am, a circumstance on which I recently had occasion to reflect in print:
I have a good many friends who are a good deal younger than I, and insofar as possible I try not to waste their time telling them what things were like when I was their age. I feel the temptation to live in the past, but one can truly live only in the moment, and the last thing I want to do is end up like the pathetic narrator of “Hey Nineteen,” the Steely Dan song about a no-longer-young baby boomer who tries to tell his teenaged girlfriend about Aretha Franklin but discovers that “she don’t remember/The Queen of Soul,” subsequently realizing that “we got nothing in common/No, we can’t talk at all.” On the whole, I prefer to hear about the world they live in, though sometimes their stories make me shiver.
As I grow older, I find myself thinking more and more about the problem of striking a proper balance between present and past. I’m no great fan of my self-centered generation and its increasingly pitiful vanities (which is why I have become an enthusiastic reader of Boomer Deathwatch). Besides, it’s always been important to me to know what’s happening–the journalist’s reflex–and my younger friends do their best to keep me posted. It was Our Girl, for example, who first alerted me to such disparate phenomena as Conan O’Brian, Buffy, and Cat Power. (Daria I found on my own.) I’m happy to know what’s going on out in the world, and I hope I always am.
Or do I? Must there come a moment when it’s wiser to stick to the cards in your hand, to deepen your understanding of what you already know? My hair stood up when I stumbled on the following sentence in Jack Richardson’s Memoir of a Gambler: “As we moved along in the police wagon, I had the slightly unclean feeling of the man who keeps company with those much younger than himself.” Might I have reached that terrible time without knowing it–the time when middle-aged people embarrass themselves by pretending to be that which they are not, forgetting that they shall never be again as they were? That’s a scary thought.
I don’t think I have. One of my much younger friends likes to tease me about my liking for Liz Phair, but there’s nothing malicious in her kidding (I hope). In any case, I pass most of my time in age-appropriate ways. What could be better suited to a dignified gent of 48 than writing a book about George Balanchine, or collecting modern art prints? Not that I can honestly claim to have sailed all the way through the Fearful Forties without scraping the shoals a time or two, but at least I didn’t buy a red sports car or start dressing in black, and with only two years to go, I’m probably in the clear (I hope).
Perhaps the abandon with which I’ve hurled myself into “About Last Night” is a form of age-inappropriate behavior–but once again, I don’t think so. Rather, I see this blog as a way of bridging the perilous gap between yesterday and today. No invention is inherently bad (or good), and surely it is a sign of grace when one can find a way to use the newest technologies to revive and refresh our appreciation of the permanent things. That’s the whole point of art blogging, and it’s awe-inspiring to see the innumerable ways in which amateurs and professionals alike are bending this medium to their myriad passions. For me, as I say, it’s been a completely unexpected booster rocket. Like Hokusai, I long someday to be an old man mad about art. For the moment, blogging is fanning my middle-aged flames.
And so…happy birthday to me!
UPDATE: A reader writes:
Something to remember, two years hence: 40 is the old age of youth. 50 is the youth of old age.
Happy birthday, protogeezer!
I feel better already.